Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ten Signs You’re Ready for a PR Firm

Recently, I came across this great article I think is rather relevant to the non-profit sector.  Although it addresses the private sector, the article is relevant as many NPO execs face the challenge of knowing when it's best to hire an outside source or not.  take a look at let me know your thoughts: 

Ten Signs You’re Ready for a PR Firm
By Dorothy Crenshaw
It’s been an interesting fall so far for the PR business. At an annual forum hosted by the Council of PR Firms, P&G Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard headlined his keynote by calling PR “the most authentic form of marketing.” He followed up with splashy PR case histories featuring powerhouse P&G brands. A week later, B2B marketing blogger Chris Koch offered a journalist’s perspective. “The era of PR is dead. As in over. Don’t do it anymore,” urges Koch. And he makes some valid points about the shrinking pool of media targets and the inefficiency of the agency model.  
So, how should a marketer size up an investment in PR? When, and how, does a public relations ramp-up with an outside firm fit into the mix?
Here are a few signs that additional PR support may be worthy of consideration.
1.  You have news. You might think that actually having news means you don’t need to invest in PR or media relations, and that’s possible. But it’s more likely you’ll benefit from a professional approach to the opportunity. A new product launch, rebranding, executive change, acquisition or expansion — those are often situations where you have only one chance to shape earned media coverage and tell your story.
2.  There are misperceptions about your brand. What PR does, often with greater depth and credibility than other forms of marketing communications, is inform your customers, employees and others about a complex, sensitive, or emerging issue. It takes time, but earned media is frequently a key channel to help clear up misinformation, get your story out, and educate your constituencies.
3.  Your industry’s in transition. And you’re driving change, or handling it successfully. Sure, category creators like Starbucks and Amazon more easily reap PR benefits by being the disrupters, but a “discovery” brand has real appeal as a reflection of a business trend or category shift.
4.  You’re bucking a trend. Even better than leading a trend, sometimes, is defying it. It’s a good time to shape a compelling story if you can talk about why you successfully zig when others zag.
5.  You have a reputation problem. Maybe there’s news, but it’s not good. If a Google search links your brand or corporate name with words like “complaints,” “rip-off,” or “slumlord,” it’s clearly time to call in the PR cavalry, or to look at a blend of reputation PR and SEO.  
6.  A competitor is framing the conversation in your space. If a rival is shaping perception about your category, or worse, misrepresenting facts, you can probably benefit from a PR-driven education campaign. A common reason clients call on agencies is to help level the communications field when a competitor makes claims that simply aren’t sustainable.
7.  You’re already getting some PR, but it’s sporadic and unplanned. And you haven’t been able to take advantage or build on it. A professional PR team cannot exercise control over a publicity result, but they can influence it, provide consistency, and maximize visibility to key channels.
8.  You have a large advertising investment. P&G’s Pritchard calls PR a “megaphone that amplifies the brand message.” In my experience, a strategic PR investment can work wonders in extending a sports sponsorship or creative ad campaign, for a relatively small investment.
9.  You have no advertising budget. PR can’t do what advertising does, and ideally, the two work together as complementary programs. But where advertising is out of reach, a strategic PR and media relations campaign can help drive brand and product visibility, build allies, and enhance reputation.
10.  You could do it yourself but don’t have time. I’ve caught flack for saying it, but many clients are fully capable of handling their own PR, particularly those who serve a trade or niche audience. And I’ve always felt that companies should own key trade media and analyst relationships. But a CEO makes a poor PR practitioner, and the in-house staff tends to get sucked into internal issues. The beauty of an outside team isn’t just objectivity, but accountability.
Do you have others to add to the list? Please share in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.
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Photo is “I love PR” by DoktorSpinn.